The National Basketball Association and all their fans are paying homage this weekend to the 2016 class being inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame. With big names such as Tom Izzo, Allen Iverson and Yao Ming, the lineup certainly presents some all-time greats. However, the headliner going into the ceremony is none other than former Los Angeles Lakers center Shaquille O’Neal.
The 15-time NBA All-Star encompassed his larger-than-life personality and made it into a spectacle. As perhaps the most entertaining player of all-time, the 44-year-old was able to put on a show wherever he went.
O’Neal would go on to play for six teams during his 19-year career, providing his personality and wittiness, while also attempting to claim the elusive NBA championship.
During his days with the Lakers, the 1999-2000 league MVP collected three championships and three Finals MVPs, asserting his dominance to anyone who doubted him.
However, his presence on the court didn’t end there. Upon his trade to the Miami Heat, the city rolled out all the big stops to appreciate what O’Neal was bringing to the expansion franchise.
To this day, Heat president Pat Riley refers to O’Neal as the greatest acquisition in franchise history, as the New Jersey native averaged 20 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game on the path to his fourth championship.
While O’Neal was able to bring the first championship in franchise history to the city of Miami, the impact he had on Los Angeles was far greater.
Phil Jackson submitted a post to The Players’ Tribune honoring O’Neal and gave praise for his decision to enter the Hall of Fame with the appropriate team:
He went on to win a championship in Miami. I was happy for him. But he has chosen to go into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a Laker, which is fitting. It was a very interesting and entertaining five years we had together in Los Angeles. For all his bravado and bigness, he was a team player first. He knew how to make his teammates better players. He kept it real — and really fun.
Jackson spent five seasons with O’Neal as a part of the Lakers, appearing in four NBA Finals and capturing the three titles as a part of the notarized three-peat.
O’Neal’s true dominance in the NBA was characterized by his time with the Lakers. During that five-season span, he averaged an incredible 27 points, 11.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game. Not only did he capture his lone league MVP, but he also collected the majority of his hardware during his tenure with the Lakers.
The franchise honored him with a jersey retirement ceremony during the 2012-13 season and is set to unveil O’Neal’s statue outside of Staples Center in the near future.
While many may debate which team O’Neal had a bigger impact on, there is no comparison to what he did for the Lakers franchise and the city of Los Angeles.